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Mentorship: building others for success

F.E. WARREN AIR FORCE BASE, Wyo. -- Being prepared is the key to the Air Force and its culture. We need to be prepared for many different types of events - from natural disasters to deployments, inspections to challenges in life. Throughout my career, the focus has been on emotional, spiritual, and physical preparedness. These are all important aspects to be prepared for, but instead of focusing on the typical types, I want to focus on mentorship. I believe mentorship is also a type of preparedness and is a vital part of today's Air Force.

Mentorship is not a new concept; it actually dates back to Greek mythology. It has evolved over time, but it still exists today. Meriam-Webster.com has defined a mentor as "someone who teaches or gives help and advice to a less experienced, and often younger, person." Successful mentorship comes from both mentor and mentee developing an honest and open relationship. This openness provides trust and enhances communication between the pair. The mentor's experiences and knowledge is what prepares us for future challenges and experiences.

An example of how my mentor prepared me for taking command was how to handle discipline within my squadron. Our mentors will enlighten us with their good and bad experiences, regrets and successes. We will be challenged to do things outside of our comfort zone as they continue to push us to higher levels of performance and leadership. The knowledge imparted provides a baseline of possible mistakes or successes made before us. As an Air Force, we continue to excel and improve processes and procedures through the knowledge passed down from our predecessors. This is what keeps us prepared, sharp, and moving forward.

Most senior leaders in the Air Force today have mentors who have assisted them throughout their careers with advice and challenges. Throughout my career, I have had, and still have, several mentors, all of whom played a different role, but each having a positive effect. My mentors have been there to challenge me, be a sounding board, tell me I am headed in the right direction or doing well, provide advice on OPRs, and most importantly, to tell me when I was missing the mark. Criticism is what will continue to push us and will put us back on a path to success.

To obtain the appropriate level of comfort and the optimum level of success, mentorship should occur quarterly, but more often if possible. As the mentee, our job is to learn and grow from information received. The best mentors typically become life-long advisors and sometimes dear friends. Our lives are extremely busy as Airmen, but even with our busy careers and lives, no matter where we or our mentors are, they will always find time for you.

Remember, our successes are not ours alone. We are successful because of our team and our hard work. Not only do we have our team, we also owe some of our success to those that have mentored and developed us along the way. Throughout your career, thank your mentors for challenging you and preparing you for the future. They will be there cheering you along, wishing you the best, and taking pride in your accomplishments. The best repayment to those who have mentored us is becoming a mentor to ourselves. Today, our Air Force is stronger and more prepared, in part due to the excellent mentors we have in our service. Bottom-line, you should always be prepared to be a mentor.